LONDON, December 21 (RIA Novosti) – Human rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) has urged Russian lawmakers to reject a bill that would ban the adoption of Russian children by US citizens and toughen restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The so-called Dima Yakovlev bill will come up for a third and final reading in Russia’s lower chamber of parliament, the State Duma, on Friday and could come into effect in January once approved by the Federation Council and signed by the president.
The bill was dubbed after a 21-month-old Russian child who died of heatstroke in July 2008 when his adoptive US father, Miles Harrison, left him unattended in a car for nine hours.
The draft law retaliates for enactment of the Magnitsky Act in the United States, which imposes visa bans and asset freezes on Russian officials deemed guilty of human rights abuses.
“This bill is frankly a childish response to the Magnitsky Act. The Duma should be focusing its efforts on how it can strengthen Russian civil society and not weaken it,” John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The proposed ban on US adoptions has sparked a public outcry among both officials and civic groups. Critics say that the move will strand thousands of children, especially those with disabilities, in Russia’s outdated state institutions.
Human rights activists also criticized another aspect of the bill introducing a direct ban on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) involved in political activity in Russia and receiving funding or other support from US citizens or US-based organizations, as well as NGOs whose activities are seen as a threat to Russia's interests.
The draft legislation likewise bans Russian nationals who also hold US passports from working at Russia-based NGOs, whether domestic or foreign, or their branches, if the NGOs engage in “political activities” in Russia.
“Quite apart from it’s clearly discriminating of Russian citizens of dual nationality there is a huge risk that the vaguely worded provisions in this bill will be used to clamp down on government critics and exposers of abuses. Indeed this would appear to be its real purpose,” Dalhuisen said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday voiced support for the proposed adoption ban and complained bitterly that US authorities do not allow Russian officials to monitor the condition of adoptive children or sit in on court hearings regarding their well-being.
He also hit out at the United States over its own human rights record, particularly in its prison system.